In the midst of worldwide economic uncertainty and upheaval, this last fortnight has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity that looks set to put Central Asia at the forefront of global politics – and deservedly so.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is currently wrapping up an unprecedented tour of Central Asia – including the first ever visit by a Japanese PM to Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – which he has described as a “huge step in boosting ties with each country”. US Secretary of State John Kerry is also setting out on a series of visits to Central Asian states through this and the following week to discuss bilateral relations with regional leaders.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, meanwhile, has returned from a successful trip to Qatar and is set to hold landmark meetings in London and Paris in the next few days. On November 2nd he will meet Prime Minister David Cameron and Queen Elizabeth to discuss bilateral ties in the wake of Kazakhstan’s recent accession to the WTO. From there he will visit Paris and meet with President Francois Hollande and French business representatives, as well as UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
These visits are economically motivated – “the situation in the region is not very stable, therefore Kazakhstan is galvanizing its economic and security cooperation”, remarked the President’s Press Secretary on his busy schedule – but nonetheless betray a growing interest in Central Asia from world powers such as the US and the UK which would have been unthinkable just twenty years ago.
There is no denying that the countries of Central Asia are poised to take on a much larger role in world affairs, and that they are absolutely capable of doing so. I look forward to the outcome of these key bilateral visits with great anticipation.